Clever Ideas, Part 2

The best sportsmen's gear innovations of 2004.

Outdoor Life Online Editor

1. Buy One, Get Two Free
Knives that change blades have been around awhile, but typically the blades either have the quality of disposable razors or don't lock in firmly. Gerber's Freeman Exchange-A-Blade is different. Its guthook, saw and knife blade switch easily and lock in tightly. I handed the knife to several people without telling them its blades were interchangeable. Everyone was impressed with the knife's look and feel and then shocked when I swapped out the blade-they had been certain it was a fixed-blade knife. ($99.99; 800-950-6161; www.gerber

2. Where's the Carbon?
Carbon-activated clothing used to be tin-man stiff, and after a day in the field, it leaked enough charcoal to make you look like a coal miner. Not anymore. When I put on Scent-Lok's Dakota Fleece clothing, the first thing I noticed was that there wasn't any difference between it and regular fleece. (This might be the only industry in which striving not to be different is the key.) Dakota Fleece comes with PolarTec Wind Pro technology, so you can wear it in rough weather.

Another new product from Scent-Lok is BaseSlayers, a line of polyester-knit undergarments loaded with carbon. They have built-in stretch and provide an extra layer of scent absorption. ($59.95 for BaseSlayers, $159.95 for the Dakota Fleece Jacket with PolarTec Wind Pro; 800-315-5799; www.

3. Truly Intuitive
I gave Garmin's 60C GPS a real sportsmen's field test: I left the unit's manual at home and trudged off into the wilderness before turning it on for the first time. Less than a minute later, it had conversed with six satellites and triangulated my position to within 10 feet. In five minutes, I was navigating, as it catalogued my progress on its 1.5-by-2.2-inch 256-color screen. Even my Uncle Earl (one of those people forever baffled by their VCRs) could use this GPS. Then I saw it had each day's best hunting and fishing times in its 56MB of memory. Optional software gives you turn-by-turn directions and audio alerts on city streets and trails, so you can navigate not only in the wild but also right to your parking spot. ($482.13; 800-800-1020;

[pagebreak] **4. Portable Water Heater **
Roughing it might have been fashionable in Mark Twain's time, but today the phrase is barely in the American vernacular. So when I decided to go on an old-fashioned canoe-in Adirondack deer hunt-campfires, plaid Woolrich jackets and deer as scarce as they were during the Great Depression-I took along a new invention from Coleman, the Hot Water on Demand Portable Water Heater.

Camped out on an idyllic point overlooking a cold, clear lake in a forest in full fall color, I merely had to screw in a propane canister and turn on the self-lighting system and, voilà, I had boiling water. After a day of still-hunting for deer that I'm quite certain were invisible-lots of tracks but not one sighting- I threw the 22-pound unit's intake hose into the lake and hooked on the shower attachment. In seconds, hot water poured out with enough pressure to please. ($179; 800-835-3278;

5. Everything in a Smaller Package
Product miniaturization is great, but only if size and weight reductions don't result in diminished optical performance or user-friendliness. With that in mind, we're pleased to report that the Nikon Monarch Laser 800 Rangefinder, which measures 5 by 2.8 by 1..5 inches and weighs 7.4 ounces, includes all modes and operational features you'd expect in a high-quality 800-yard range finder.

Nikon's Tru-Target Ranging System offers two targeting modes: a First Target Priority mode for small objects, such as fence posts, and a Distant Target Priority mode. Its 6x21 monocular viewing system has a 3.5mm exit pupil, a 6-degree field of view (315 feet at 1,000 yards), a fully adjustable eyepiece and 18mm of eye relief. Its measuring capabilities range from 11 to 800 yards. Our preview unit, tested in clear Montana air, consistently gave quick and accurate readings on large targets, such as houses, to slightly beyond 800 yards. Even under adverse conditions, it reliably told us when game was beyond reasonable shooting distances. As for criticism, we wish the mode button were easier to find and press when you're wearing gloves. ($490.95 in black; 800-248-6846; -B.McR.

**6. At Your Fingertips **
Tired of fumbling with a grunt call when a buck is approaching? Don't like drawing attention to your location? Mojo has a solution. The Mojo BuckStopper electronic grunt call has two parts: a speaker unit that can be strapped to a tree up to 100 yards from your location and a remote control that can be attached to your bow so you can actually make the call grunt while you're at full draw. ($69.99; 866-216-6656;

7. Bionic Ears
Radians' Hunter's Ears have dual external microphones with independent controls to allow you to pinpoint sounds. I tried them out in the office and was able to muffle a particularly loud coworker. ($129.99; 877-723-4267;